McGrath Property Group/Cas4 Architecture
The public benefits of this project outweighed the concerns of neighboring residents.
Last night, the Madison Common Council did the right thing when it overwhelmingly voted to approve a residential tower at 149 E. Wilson St.
For one thing, it will replace a vacant eyesore of a building, and for another, it will add to the density that makes for a bona fide downtown.
The residents of the two adjacent condo towers on East Wilson Street fought the project. There's a good deal of irony in that, as these residents occupy exactly the same type of structures as the new project. But they did have legitimate concerns that the new building would block their views and lower their property values. I can't blame them for trying, but their personal issues with the project paled in comparison with the public benefits.
As a last-minute gambit, the residents offered to buy the parcel and work with the city to convert it to build a pedestrian and bike bridge to the shores of Lake Monona. You might think that as a long-time bicycle advocate I'd be all over that, but I wasn't.
The truth is that when it comes to bikes, there's safety in numbers. We know that the more people we can get on bikes, the safer we'll all be. So, what makes biking safer in this case would not be the bridge, but the additional bicyclists provided by residents of the new building.
And the better solution for the problem of a connection to the lake is an escalator built somewhere around Monona Terrace. I've seen similar installations in Europe and they work extremely well.
In any event, it's more good work by the Madison Common Council. They continue to show leadership in making our city a better place.
Dave Cieslewicz is executive director of the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin.